Hawkins Releases Statement on Fiscal Policy; Continues Fast in Solidarity with Displaced 85 Bowery Tenants on a Hunger Strike
For immediate release, May 31, 2018
Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor of New York, is fasting again today with tenants displaced from 85 Bowery who are on a three-day hunger strike outside City Hall in New York City.
Hawkins was disgusted yesterday to see the city, which gave the tenants a permit to conduct their hunger strike on the sidewalk outside City Hall, revoked its permit to allow a couple of port-a-potties the tenants paid for to be placed on the sidewalk during the three-day hunger strike.
“It just shows the De Blasio administration has no respect for working-class tenants who are being driven out of the city by the conversion of affordable housing to luxury units in buildings like 85 Bowery. De Blasio is more concerned to please the real estate landlord and developer interests who finance his political campaigns. He’s no progressive,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins also released his unpublished response to Richard Brodsky’s Albany Times Union column asking gubernatorial candidates for their proposals on fiscal policy in light of higher than expected state tax revenues:
Richard Brodsky asked the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates what the state should do with increased tax revenues from the economic recovery (“Let’s talk about what to do with increasing tax revenues,” Albany Times Union, May 21, 2018).
He didn’t ask me, the Green candidate for governor, but I’ll answer anyway. I’ll frame it around Brodsky’s answers his own question:
• Pay down debt: Agreed. Stop borrowing for the operating budget, which should be paid as we go.
Smart borrowing for infrastructure investments can pay off for the state by increasing economic productivity and thus wealth creation and tax revenues. But it is even better to tax the rich upfront rather than borrow from them through bonding and pay interest to them on top of the principal.
A more progressive overall tax structure would raise the revenues for this, starting with keeping rather than rebating the Stock Transfer Tax and restoring the more progressive income tax structure the state used to have.
• Invest in infrastructure: Yes. That’s where the one-shot revenues from $5 billion paid by big banks to New York State for their financial crimes should have gone instead of to Governor Cuomo’s trickle-down corporate welfare for “economic development,” which hasn’t trickled-down to economically depressed neighborhoods and towns.
A publicly-owned state bank should also be created to finance infrastructure at lower costs than going through Wall Street, like the state-owned Bank of North Dakota has done profitably for that state for a century.
• Reduce property taxes: Absolutely. But how? Gov. Cuomo’s 2% tax cap hasn’t reduced our sky-high property taxes. A better solution is to restore revenue sharing so the state pays for its unfunded mandates through the more progressive state income tax instead of forcing local governments to jack up regressive property and sales taxes to pay for state programs.
In the late 1970s, 8% of state revenues were shared with local governments. Today it shares 4/10ths of 1%. Hence local taxes pay for nearly 7% of state programs. The state is balancing its budget on the backs of local property taxpayers.
Both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for this injustice. Instead of a centralized one-size-fits-all tax cap on local governments, the state should pay for its own mandated programs and let local governments decided their own priorities between tax relief and funding their schools and other services.
• Invest in schools, hospitals, and the work of state government: I agree with Brodsky that “increased investment in programs and hardware is a good thing.” Revitalizing the public sector is the key to lowering the costs of living and doing business in New York State.
A public healthcare program like the pending NY Health Act proposes will lower the costs of providing health care for every New Yorker. Public investment in a 100% clean energy infrastructure will cut electric rates and end the enormous health and environmental costs of fossil-fuel burning. Public broadband can close the digital divide at lower cost than dependence on the private telecoms oligopoly.
We need massive public investments just to preserve public assets that we already have. They are deteriorating due to years underinvestment. The Metropolitan Transit Authority needs $100 billion investments just to get the trains running safely and on time. The New York City Housing Authority needs $25 billion just to remove lead paint and mold, repair leaky roofs, and get the boilers working again.
Beyond those investments, we need to expand public transit and housing in New York City and across the state. We need to do public housing like they do in Western Europe, where it’s not segregated housing for the poor but an option for everyone and covers upwards of 20% of rental housing markets. The new public housing should be humanly-scaled, scatter-site, and mixed-income, with the market rate rents of the more affluent tenants making the whole system more self-sustaining. By expanding this kind of public housing, rents in the private rental market will come down to the real costs of providing housing from the too-damned-high rents now commanded by a market with an insufficient supply of affordable units.
The Green Party calls this program of progressive taxation and public investment the Green New Deal. It seeks to guarantee the economic human rights to a job or income, education, housing, health care, and fair markets for small farmers and business that are free of monopolistic profiteering. To these economic rights, which President Franklin Roosevelt called for as a second, economic bill of rights in his last State of the Union address, the Green Party would add measures to make our environment health and sustainable. That is why we call it the Green New Deal.
Green Party candidate for Governor of New York